Canadian champs refuel for Senior League World Series opener

Posted Aug. 14, 2009, at 11:19 p.m.

Friday was a day of travel and rest for the Cornwall Black Sox, newly crowned Canadian Senior League baseball champions.

Fresh from edging host Saint John, New Brunswick, in its national championship game Thursday night before an estimated crowd of 3,000 at Memorial Field, the victors from Ontario relaxed through their 200-mile bus ride from Saint John to Bangor, site of the 49th Senior League World Series that begins Sunday.

The team then rested a little more once they arrived at mid-afternoon at the SLWS team headquarters for the next week, the Holiday Inn on Odlin Road.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Jay Flannigan, a pitcher-third baseman who earned the save in the Canadian final by striking out the last batter with the tying run in scoring position.

“This is the first time Cornwall’s made it this far, and this has been a goal of ours since the beginning of the year.”

Eight players on this year’s Cornwall team played on a Junior League all-star team that finished third in the 2007 Canadian championships.

That team was ousted in the semifinals by Whalley, British Columbia, and members of the Whalley team moved on to the SLWS last year where they went 3-1 in pool play and reached the semifinals before dropping a 1-0 decision to 2008 world champion North Cumberland Little League of Upper Deerfield, N.J.

“We probably should have won that game against Whalley,” said Cornwall manager Marc St. Denis. “We led 6-2 but wound up losing 7-6. We thought we might do pretty well coming back this year, we’ve worked hard the last few years.”

Cornwall, a team from a city of 46,000 located 60 miles southeast of Ottawa, the Canadian capital, was the second international team to arrive in Bangor for the annual world championship baseball tournament for players ages 14 through 16.

The Latin American champions from San Nicolas, Aruba, were the first to arrive on Thursday.

Teams from Madison, Wisc. (U.S. Central), South Vineland, N.J. (U.S. East), Greenville, S.C, (U.S. Southeast), Fremont, Calif. (U.S. West), and Makati City, Philippines, (Asia Pacific) were scheduled to arrive in Maine later Friday, with contingents from Houston, Texas, (U.S. Southwest) and Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy, (Europe-Middle East-Africa) slated for Saturday arrivals to join the host team, the Maine District 3 champions from Bangor.

“It will be great to play against teams from all around the world,” said Flannigan.

Formal SLWS activities at Mansfield Stadium begin with opening ceremonies at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Special guests will include Steve Keener, president and CEO of Little League International, Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci, and members of the 1989 Bangor West All-Stars that won the state Little League championship for 11- and 12-year-olds.

Thirteen of the 14 players on that Bangor West team are expected to be present, according to SLWS tournament director Mike Brooker, with the only exception being pitcher Matt Kinney, now playing for the San Francisco Giants’ Triple A affiliate in Fresno, Calif.

Team members will throw out the first pitch of the opening ceremonies to players from this year’s Bangor Senior League All-Stars.

The 1989 team then will be honored again Sunday prior to the first game of the SLWS for their state championship run and for helping to inspire the subsequent construction of Mansfield Stadium.

Other highlights of the opening ceremonies include a parade of champions featuring all 10 SLWS teams, the introduction of Maine District 3 champions in baseball and softball from all levels — including the Bangor East Little League and Bangor Junior League teams, both state champions — and a fireworks display.

Five days of SLWS pool play begin at noon Sunday when Bangor squares off against Cornwall, Ontario. Each team has four games during pool play plus one bye day, and the top two teams from each of the two five-team pools will advance to Friday’s semifinals.

The SLWS championship game is at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22.

This marks the eighth year Bangor has hosted the Senior League World Series, and five different regions have won world championships over that span.

The U.S. East (North Cumberland LL in 2008 and Freehold Township in 2004) and Latin America (Curacao in 2002 and Venezuela in 2006) have won twice, while the U.S. West (Hilo, Hawaii, in 2003), U.S. Central (Urbandale, Iowa, in 2005), and U.S. South (Cartersville, Ga., in 2007) each has won once.

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